Ukraine is in a difficult situation with the arrival of winter. It does not have enough ammunition and financial aid from the West is also in jeopardy. Republican lawmakers in the US, for example, are blocking $60 billion in financial assistance. In the 5:59 podcast, Deník N journalist Petra Procházková talks about the resulting gloomy mood she experienced in Ukraine during her recent reporting trip.
What you will also hear in today’s episode at 5:59
- How and why the previous euphoric atmosphere turned into skepticism.
- About the declining popularity of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
- And also about how the ongoing war gradually dissolves national unity and the differences between the western part of Ukraine and the east resurface.
Petra Procházková has been going to Ukraine regularly since the beginning of the Russian invasion and often shares her feelings. And it has changed dramatically compared to her previous trip to the war-torn country. Instead of euphoria, she now found skepticism. Even in the spring of this year, it looked like the Ukrainian army would drive the Russians out of their territory. They talked with great confidence about the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which was supposed to be overwhelming. It did not happen. There are several reasons – bad weather, declining financial and military aid to the West, and also the loss of world attention at the expense of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“All this together created a kind of feeling of skepticism, maybe even depression among some groups of the population, surrender, and at certain moments I even hear a kind of conciliatory tone: Let’s not do it anymore, shall we?” It’s not the leitmotif of Ukraine, but you’ll hear it. And that wasn’t the case before,” Petra Procházková describes the current atmosphere in Ukraine.
In the current period of gloom, as the journalist says, resistance to joining the army has also increased. A long-time acquaintance told Procházko that “the best have already fallen”, and thus the less motivated and less skilled must also come to the battlefield. But it’s still not enough, so Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced on Tuesday that he would consider the army’s request to mobilize up to half a million more people.
According to Petra Procházková, as time progresses, Ukrainian unity begins to crumble, and the country’s earlier division into the pro-European West and the pro-Russian East is increasingly being remembered. To this, the journalist adds one fresh image perception. In the east, where the heaviest fighting is taking place, there are completely destroyed villages, but there are more new graves in the western part of the country, where the largest number of volunteers come from.
“In the West, people have a bit of a feeling that they are bleeding for the East, which is perhaps not worth it at all,” points out Procházková.
It is not the only visible sign of the hard times Ukraine is increasingly entering. Support for President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was hugely popular a year ago, is also falling. His disagreements with the army command become public and this takes away points from him. Especially in the south and east of Ukraine, Zelensky’s support is weakening, says Procházková.
“You can feel it more there, but there is still a very high credit of the army, that even if the army did not bring the successes that were hoped for, the blame for this is rather placed on the political leadership than on the military command. This is quite interesting. The army holds almost 90%, while Zelenskyi falls below 70%,” adds the journalist.
According to her, Zelenskyy had a complicated relationship with the army command even before the war. In the eyes of the generals, according to Procházková, at first he was “just a jester”. However, his courageous and decisive actions after the invasion of Russian troops into the country radically improved his reputation.
This was an important week. Supporting Ukraine means protecting the rules-based international order. I am grateful to all of the leaders and countries who help us safeguard lives. I thank them for their vital support for our defense. pic.twitter.com/CYRcRDpaQb
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) December 17, 2023
However, times are changing and with the bad situation on the battlefield, the personal animosity between Zelensky and his generals, including Chief of the General Staff Valerij Zaluzhny, flared up again. It can be forgotten in times of success, but it will return the moment when success stops.
“And it’s not just the Zelenskyi-Zaluznyi conflict, but Budanov, the head of intelligence, suddenly finds out that he has wiretapping devices in his office, etc. And all this is terribly bad news for the Ukrainian public,” points out Petra Procházková.
Against the background of these internal, but still externally suppressed or secretive disputes, Ukraine’s leaders must deal with perhaps the greatest danger of all – the weakening support of the West. In the US, a large part of the Republican Party opposes continued financial and arms assistance, while in Europe Viktor Orbán’s Hungary is blocking aid.
Petra Procházková considers the cessation of financial aid to be, in one word, a “disruption”. At the same time, she points out that it is not just a lack of ammunition or humanitarian aid – according to her, the entire state could collapse without money from the West.
“I have always admired the last two years in Ukraine, how the state works. They were able to preserve a lot of that civil functioning of the state, which is terribly important, because people, even though you have constant alarms and so on, people have to go to work, children have to go to school, public transport has to work, but that would not be possible without the Western financial aid they couldn’t,” says the journalist.
At the same time, Ukraine could find itself in a really big problem when the Republican Donald Trump becomes the president of the USA again next year. He has been declaring for a long time that he would drop support for Ukraine.
“They are very afraid of it, they are completely terrified of the American elections. This is a big topic there, because there is already such an opinion: Trump will come and it will be over,” concludes Petra Procházková.
In the 5:59 podcast, you will also learn about Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to find new financial sources outside the West. Listen in the player at the beginning of the article.
Editor a koeditor: Pavel Vondra, Eduard Freisler
Sound design and music: Martin Hůla
Sources of audio samples: ČT24, CNN Prima News, TV Nova, Czech Radio Journal, CNN, Deutsche Welle
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